Why does the church persist in celebrating the season of Advent? What sense does it make when the first Christmas decorations made their way into stores on July 5 and the Hallmark Channel has been doing the “Countdown to Christmas” since Oct. 1? Considering that many of us have December calendars filled to the brim with programs, concerts and parties, isn’t a season of Advent somewhat “outdated?”
Our ever-wise church realizes how much we need Advent. She says, “Bring on the candles, the songs, the colors and the season.” Advent is the road we travel as we live in that intermediate time between Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem and his return in the second coming.
This weekend, when you come to church, watch for the familiar patterns and practices of Advent. The priest will be dressed in purple. Depending on the circumstances of your parish, the vestments may be a different shade of purple than the ones seen at Lent. The purple of Advent calls us to rejoice as we prepare for Jesus to come among us. This is unlike the purple of Lent which calls us to repentance.
Will you see an Advent wreath? Its circle of greens reminds us that God is eternal, having no beginning or end. The four candles, usually three purple and one pink, mark the four Sundays of Advent.
Listen for the hymns that make their way into our worship just for this one season each year. Perhaps you will go home humming “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” or “On Jordan’s Bank.”
Watch to see if Advent “grows” in your church. With the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve falling on the same day, adaptions will need to be made in our church environments. Watch to see if pieces of the crèche begin to appear or if unlit trees take their places within the church.
Take time to really contemplate what impact you will let the season of Advent have in your life. Consider, as you listen to the readings each week, how they engage us with the past. Those Scriptures proclaim that Jesus came among us to bring good news to the poor, freedom to the enslaved and sight to the blind.
Remember as well that Advent takes on a second meaning because the church not only remembers Jesus’ birth but also looks expectantly towards his second coming. Do you believe that Jesus will one day come for you? Are you making yourself ready and prepared?
Lastly, as you engage in the holy rhythm of Advent, consider that you are not alone. You are united with others in an event that spans millennia, nations, languages and all Christian denominations. It is humbling to realize that we are part of the larger story that is the kingdom of God.
Take heart in the fact that the church continues to do Advent because our life is not supposed to become a hectic December mess. Enter the quiet; the day of the Lord is near.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.